Our History

1996: The Sustainable Business Alliance (SBA) was born as a nonprofit, public/private partnership formed by businesses, local government agencies, UCB faculty and students, and local NGOs, to advance the development of an “environmental economy” in Berkeley and surrounding communities.  It was a response to Berkeley’s “environmental economy strategy”, adopted 9-0 by the City Council in 1994.

The founders of SBA were pioneers in the field of building business associations. While Chambers of Commerce had been around for at least a couple of centuries, the notion that a business association could focus on environmental quality as well as financial success was novel in mid-1990’s America.

The founders included several green economy luminaries whose reputation and stature have only grown over the past fifteen years.  They include Gil Friend (CEO, Natural Logic), Dan Knapp (CEO, Urban Ore), Gary Gerber (CEO, Sun Light and Power).  Early key members included Gene Agress (CEO, Berkeley Mills), Lincoln Cushing (Inkworks), Pam Evans (Coordinator, Alameda County Green Business Program), Kathy Hutton (The Ecology Center), James Nixon (CEO, Progressive Asset Management, Inc.), Chris Rosen (Faculty, Haas School of Business, UCB), and Kate Squire (OED, City of Berkeley).

The initial mission of SBA was to support the building of a thriving green economy for the San Francisco Bay Area.  SBA sought to do this by:

  • Promoting sustainable business practices
  • Nurturing the environmentally committed business sector
  • Advocating for progressive public policy that would bolster the green economy
  • Providing networking and education opportunities to businesses that wish to strengthen their adoption of green best practices.

2004:  The SBA recognized that the challenge progressive businesses faced was holistic and began to marry green business objectives and social justice objectives.  The SBA adopted its identity as a business association committed to the Triple Bottom Line – people, planet, profit.

2007: SBA joined the Business Alliance For Local Living Economies (BALLE) (www.livingeconomies.org), and attended the BALLE conference in Berkeley. BALLE is a national network of local business networks that are committed to building vibrant local living economies.   Learn more about our effort to grow an East Bay Network in Current Initiatives.

2008: SBA joined another vital national progressive business network, the American Sustainable Business Council.  The Council lobbies in Washington, DC, for public policy that favors and nurtures the vibrant local living economies to which BALLE networks are committed to growing.

2010-2011: SBA began working closely with two other BALLE networks in the East Bay – Oakland Grown and Buy Local Berkeley.

September 2011: SBA adopted the Oakland Grown program to create a single BALLE network in the East Bay.

October 2011:

  • The SBA participated in the Annual Conference of the American Sustainable Business Council (ASBC) in Washington, DC, represented by Matt Bauer, CEO of Better World Telecom, a pioneering B-Corp telecommunications company.

November 2011: The SBA and Oakland Grown launched the Oakland Grown gift card.
Learn more about our Current Initiatives.

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